You’re in a department store, looking to buy a shirt. “Excuse me,” you say to a staff member, “where can I find the menswear department?” “Are you looking for casual wear or formal?” they ask. Immediately, they shut their eyes and cover their ears, leaving you open mouthed and offended.
This interaction is weird, right? And a really stupid way to treat customers? But it’s exactly what we do on the web when we send e-mail from a no-reply address.
Here’s a recent communication from Amazon AWS—as instructed on their site, I mailed them about a specific billing issue.
I checked our records, but I can’t find an AWS account associated with the e-mail address you wrote from. I’m not able to answer questions about your account unless you write to us from the e-mail address associated with your account. Please write back from that other e-mail address. You can go to the URL below to contact us again…
[A load of links to and bumf about forums, feedback forms, etc.]
Please note: this e-mail was sent from an address that cannot accept incoming e-mail. To contact us about an unrelated issue, please visit the Help section of our web site.
Given the crappy copy and links in the message, after a quick scan, it’s not difficult to miss a key line or two and be left thinking you can hit reply and continue the conversation. After all, they originally asked me to e-mail them, they just replied to my mail, they ask me to “write back”, speak in the first person and they sign with a staff member’s name. I typed “Hi Scott, there must be some confusion. There is no another e-mail add—” before I noticed the “cannot accept incoming e-mail” line.
Yes, I’m an idiot—I should have read the mail properly. Yes, this is an especially bad example—Amazon have really messed this one up. And yes, I fully understand that there are operational reasons why you don’t want tonnes of unorganised, unfiltered mail going to one address.
But, I’m not the only idiot in the world. And Amazon are not the only company that talk at their customers like this—some Contrast apps make this mistake. And most importantly, operational challenges are not your customer’s concern! If you ask for payment in return for a product or service that sometimes doesn’t meet expectations, you better not ask a pissed-off customer to jump through hoops to let them give you a second chance!
But this isn’t just about customer service situations. E-mail is a two-way medium. If you break that key facet of the medium any time you send any message, you break e-mail.
So say no to no-reply e-mails in your app. Let your customers talk to you! Even if it’s hard work trying to answer everyone, it’s a damn sight better than covering your ears.